The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee ruled that a statement made by the Village of Mamaroneck (VOM) Republican Party at a "Meet the Candidates" show that aired on LMC-TV—that the VOM Democratic Party "wants to cut the police department by 30 percent"—was untrue.
The debate can be viewed on the LMC-TV's website here.
According to the statement that was sent out by the Committee today, Democratic trustee candidate Leon Potok did say that, “The board should look carefully at any possibilities of reducing staffing and the impact of such reduced staffing," however, there was no specific mention by any VOM Democratic party members at the debate that the department should be reduced by 30 percent.
Jeremy Sherber, a spokesperson for the VOM Democratic Party, said, "The Republicans thought they could get away with just making stuff up. Unfortunately, the video with this falsehood is still airing on LMC-TV, so voters really need to be made aware of how empty the Republicans' accusation really is."
Democratic trustee candidates Andres Bermudez Hallstrom, Ilissa Miller and Potok filed a complaint with the Committee earlier this week, according to a release sent out by the VOM Democrats.
"The mayor just made up a big scary number - and the rest of them went right along with it. It calls into question their integrity," said Bermudez Hallstrom.
In response, VOM Mayor Norm Rosenblum pointed to a side-by-side comparison of the VOM and Rye Police Departments Potok presented to the Board of Trustees as well as a statement he made in April.
The comparison, which can be viewed by clicking to the right of this article, shows the VOM Police's 52-member Department with a $7.07 million budget contrasted with the City of Rye's 36-member Department with a $5.2 million budget; there is an approximately 30 percent difference in manpower, said Rosenblum.
Paraphrasing comments made by Potok at an April 23 Board of Trustees meeting, Rosenblum said that Potok noted that 2/3 of the village's budget was comprised of employee salaries and benefits, with 1/2 of that allocated to the police department. Rosenblum said that Potok suggested that, in comparison to the City of Rye and Village of Port Chester—areas with populations similar to the VOM—they should be able to manage with a smaller police department.
Meeting notes regarding these statements are available on the Village of Mamaroneck website here on Page 8-9. However, Potok said the notes were incomplete and erroneous.
"In my role as chairman of the volunteer Budget Committee, I presented a series of observations about the size of the VOM Police Department in relation to departments for nearby municipalities. I also noted that I had asked the mayor to arrange for the police chief to meet with the Budget Committee, to help us understand how police resources are managed and to discuss potential opportunities for raising revenues and/or reducing costs," Potok told Larchmont Patch in an email.
"This is not a call for cutting the Police Department. That is a recommendation for the Board to analyze the tradeoffs between cost savings (if one or two vacant positions were eliminated) and any impact this would have on police services."
"I have attempted to correct the minutes, but the mayor continues to quote from the old, inaccurate version," he said, continuing, "The mayor was provided comparisons on a per capita basis, which show a 17 percent rather than a 30 percent difference, but he has chosen to ignore them...the mayor chooses to assert that the observation constitutes a recommendation. It does not. And that was the finding of the FCPC [Committee] as well."
The corrected minutes, which can also be viewed by clicking to the right of this article are as follows:
"Mr. Potok noted that about two-thirds of the budget is allocated to salaries and benefits, and one-half of that spending is allocated to the Police Department. Potok stated that the village has a larger police department in relation to population than either the City of Rye or the Village of Port Chester, which suggests that there might be opportunities to manage with a smaller department. He recommended that, with two positions currently vacant in the Police Department, the Board look carefully at any possibilities of reducing staffing and the impact of such reduced staffing."
Rosenblum, however, has not backed down from his original assertion despite the Committee's findings.
"I stand by my statement and conclusions based on what was presented to the Board of Trustees," said Rosenblum, continuing, "As noted by the old adage...'If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck....it is a duck....' the facts, as presented by Potok himself, certainly prevents his 'ducking' what he said and presented to the Board of Trustees."
The League of Women Voters established the Committee in 1991 to ensure that candidates ran honest and fair campaigns. For more information, please visit the Committee's website here.
Editor's Note: Several statements from Rosenblum and Potok have been added to an original version of this article. Potok also noted that meeting notes on the VOM website were incomplete and erroneous, not entirely wrong as previously stated.